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So far this year the most impressive children's/YA catalog I've received is from Candlewick. Here's what I plan to review:

How to Heal a Broken Wing
by Bob Graham: "In a city full of hurried people, only young Will notices the bird lying hurt on the ground. With the help of his sympathetic mother, he gently wraps the injured bird and takes it home. In classic Bob Graham style, the beauty is in the details: the careful ministrations with an eyedropper, the bedroom filled with animal memorabilia, the saving of the single feather as a good-luck charm for the bird's return to the sky. Wistful and uplifting, here is a tale of possibility -- and of the souls who never doubt its power."

It's a beautiful book to look at and simply told but not cloying. I think this could be a sleeper.

Deadville by Ron Koertge. "Listening to music 24/7. Hanging out with his slacker-stoner friend, Andy. Basically, Ryan's been sleepwalking through life since his younger sister died of cancer two years ago. But when Charlotte Silano -- a gorgeous, popular senior way out of his league -- has a riding accident and falls into a coma, Ryan finds himself drawn to her hospital room almost every day, long after her friends stop coming around. And oddly enough, Ryan seems to be slowly snapping out of his own brand of coma -- working out at the gym, adopting a cool vintage hat, even easing into a relationship with Betty, a classmate who has her own reasons for visiting Charlotte. With his incisive humor and quick-fire repartee, Ron Koertge explores the unpredictable workings of grief and the healing power of self-reinvention."

Koertge is a writer to watch when it comes to YA lit; as long as this one doesn't get too maudlin it could be a breakout.

The Mystery of the Fool & the Vanisher by David & Ruth Ellwand. "Some say the English Downs are haunted by fairy creatures -- and that those who find a flint stone with a hole through it can look into the fairies' realm. It is just such a stone that leads photographer David Ellwand on a dark journey to the past, one that starts with a musty wooden chest and a nineteenth-century journal and ends with a disappearance as sudden as a vintage camera's flash. In this journal-within-a-journal, illustrated by Ellwand's exquisite photographs, lies a tale of archaeologists and fairies, human hubris and otherworldly revenge, the magic of the natural world and the mystery of the imagination."

Very very cool - this is one of the better designed books I've seen in awhile. The pictures are awesome. I haven't read it yet but as long as the story holds up I can see this one appealing to a wide range of readers - even up to the Nick Bantock level. (Just on the design alone.)

The Revolution of Sabine by Beth Levine Ain. "Sixteen-year-old Sabine Durand, daughter of aristocrats, thinks of nothing but donning exquisite ball gowns and being seen at all the right parties in Paris. When she secretly rekindles a forbidden friendship with Michel, he spirits her away to her first salon and she meets the revolutionary Ben Franklin. Fueled by ideas of change, Sabine is determined to take control of her life as it spins toward an arranged marriage to a salacious aristocrat. But how can she break free of her social-climbing mother's cruel grasp? Perhaps the secret lies in her portrait, recently painted by Fragonard, and her new understanding of love."

What really appealed to me here was the idea of a young French woman meeting Franklin and catching "revolutionary fever". I hope it lives up to its premise.

The Savage by David Almond, illus by Dave McKean. "Blue Baker is writing a story -- not all that stuff about wizards and fairies and happily ever after -- a real story, about blood and guts and adventures, because that's what life's really like. At least it is for Blue, since his dad died and Hopper, the town bully, started knocking him and the other kids around. But Blue's story has a life of its own -- weird and wild and magic and dark -- and when the savage pays a nighttime visit to Hopper, Blue starts to wonder where he ends and his creation begins."

The creative combination made the book irresistible for me. I've seen it now and it is stunning. I'm hoping for smart and scary; a great blend for teens.

Anila's Journey by Mary Finn. "How can Anila Tandy, left to fend for herself after her mother's death, dare to apply for a job that is clearly not meant for a woman? But somehow the "Bird Girl of Calcutta," art supplies in hand, finds herself on an eye-opening journey up the Ganges, apprenticed to a gentleman scientist. As the lush landscape slips by, Anila dives into her past -- a past where her beautiful Bengali mother still tells stories and her Irish father's mysterious disappearance lingers. Gorgeously written and rich with atmosphere, Mary Finn's debut novel tells the story of a determined young artist who must make her way in the dangerous world of late-eighteenth-century India."

What got me here was the setting - 18th century India. We don't see too many books for teens for this place and time and I'm interested to see how it plays out.

Chameleon by Charles R. Smith Jr. "Shooting the breeze with his boys. Tightening his D on the court. Doing a color check -- making sure nobody's wearing blue or red, which some Crip or Piru carrying a cut-down golf club would see as disrespect. Then back to Auntie's, hoping she isn't passed out from whiskey at the end of the day. Now that Shawn is headed for high school, he wonders if he'd be better off at the school in Mama's neighborhood, where he'd be free of Compton's hassles. But then he wouldn't be with his fellas -- cracking jokes, covering each other's backs -- or the fine Marisol, who's been making star appearances in his dreams. Dad says he needs to make his own decision, but what does Shawn want, freedom or friendship? With teasing, spot-on dialogue and an eye to the realities of inner-city life, CHAMELEON takes on the shifting moods of a teenager coming of age."

If you read his picture book on Muhammad Ali, (Twelve Rounds to Glory) then you'll understand why this one is a no-brainer.

One Beetle Too Many by Kathleen Lasky, illus by Matthew Trueman. "From the time Charles Darwin was a boy, he was happiest when he was out alone collecting specimens (especially beetles). And despite his father's efforts to turn young Darwin -- a poor student -- into a doctor or clergyman, the born naturalist jumped instead at the chance to sail around South America, observing and collecting flora and fauna all the way. In a clear, engaging narration, Kathryn Lasky takes readers along on Darwin's journey, from his discovery of seashells on mountaintops that revealed geological changes to his observations of variations in plants and animals, suggesting that all living things are evolving over time. Matthew Trueman's striking mixed-media illustrations include actual objects found in nature, enhancing this compelling look at the man behind the bold theory that would change the way we think about the world -- and ourselves."

It's beautiful and fun and carries Lasky's trademark ability to make a big life manageable for younger readers. A great way to start on Darwin for the elementary school set. (I'm reading it to my son right now.)

War Is...soldiers, survivors and storytellers talk about war
by Marc Aronson & Patty Campbell. ""The most important Young Adult book of the year, tough, smart and clear-eyed about a topic more taboo than sex - going to war - a topic teenagers need to know about before they make real life and death decisions." -- Robert Lipsyte, author of THE CONTENDER

Marc Aronson thinks war is inevitable. Patty Campbell thinks war is cruel, deceptive, and wrong. But both agree on one thing: that teens need to hear the truthful voices of those who have experienced war firsthand. The result is this dynamic selection of essays, memoirs, letters, and fiction from nearly than twenty contributors, both contemporary and historical -- ranging from Christian Bauman's wrenching "Letter to a Young Enlistee" to Chris Hedges's unfl inching look at combat to Fumiko Miura's Nagasaki memoir, "A Survivor's Tale." Whether the speaker is Mark Twain, World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle, or a soldier writing a miliblog, these divergent pieces look war straight in the face -- and provide an invaluable resource for teenagers today."

One of the books I am anticipating the most this year and I hope everyone is ready to read and review it.


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